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Sat 9 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Wasted elements

With waste management at the forefront of the region's sustainability drive, Construction Week investigates what is required by law and how firms are tackling the issue in practice.

Wasted elements
(Getty Images)
Wasted elements
Habiba Al Marashi, Emirates Environmental Group chairperson and board member of UN Global Compact.
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Ajay Kumar, Dulsco Waste Management Services’ senior manager operations.
Wasted elements
Graham Bell, Envac regional president for the Middle East and India and group vice president.
Wasted elements
Mario Seneviratne, director, Green Technologies.
Wasted elements
Millions of tyres are dumped throughout the emirates – an environmental hazard.

With waste management at the forefront of the region's sustainability drive, Construction Week investigates what is required by law and how firms are tackling the issue in practice.

With the drive for sustainable building in the Middle East continually gaining strength, every aspect of a project's construction is now scrutinised for its ‘green' credentials. One of the growing focuses is that of waste management: optimising the amount of materials needed for a project; increasing the use of recycled materials; and lowering waste produced, have all become concerns.

The current economic downturn is also increasing the focus on waste management as firms seek ways to lower project costs, while maintaining build quality. But what is required by law and how can your firm benefit from minimising construction waste?

Regulating waste

The first factor that construction firms must consider in terms of waste management is what is required by law. So what should you be adhering to?

One of the first points to note is that regulations differ according to the area or country in which a project is underway. "Waste management in construction sites have clear regulations in the UAE. However it would be difficult to generalise the regulations in UAE, let alone the Middle East, since each Emirate has its own set of rules and regulations," reports Tariq Ibrahim, sales manager, Mohammed Tayyeb Khoory & Sons Waste Management Division.

The rules covering the removal and disposal of waste are clear in each of the different countries. "Dubai Municipality has allocated a dump site for construction waste in Jebel Ali, with clear instructions on how to dispose of construction waste; waste management centre, Abu Dhabi has also made clear regulations on the disposal of construction waste," states Ibrahim.

"Regarding the removal and dumping of waste in Dubai for example, Dubai Municipality has made a set of guidelines for the same (Local Order No 7 of 2002 on Management of Waste Disposal Sites in the Emirate of Dubai)," adds Habiba Al Marashi, Emirates Environmental Group chair and board member of UN Global Compact.

"Generally the construction companies give out the responsibility of the waste disposal to a subcontractor who has got a permit from the Municipality to transport the waste to a designated place. As per the above guidelines, there are fees for the type of waste dumped at landfills," she explains.

One common aim of the individual regulations is to provide environmental protection for the individual countries, including protecting resources and eradicating any dumping, with the adverse effects this causes. "We have several laws that were passed to protect the environment, however Federal Law 24 (series 1999) was a landmark document for environmental protection and development in the country," says Al Marashi.

"There have been several revisions of this law, but it provides the core for environmental protection in the country," she says. Pollution of water sources, air and the overall environment are covered within Federal Law 24, as are sustainable development and methods of waste management, disposal and recycling.

Recycling resources

What do such regulations mean in practical terms and is recycling becoming a standard practice in the region? "Any recycling or resource recovery from waste is entirely dependent on entities functioning onsite," says Ajay Kumar, Dulsco Waste Management Services' senior manager operations. "[Recycling is not required] as per any prevailing regulations; any recycling is at the discretion of the company on site."

"There are no laws regarding recycling at all," concurs Envac regional president for the Middle East and India and group vice president, Graham Bell. "Separation and collection of recyclable materials during construction seldom happens; it is more common after a project is complete and is built into the master plan," explains Bell.

At present, relatively little recycling is carried out for construction waste. Ibrahim reports: "Less than 20 % [of construction waste is currently being recycled]." But, this may be set to change for several reasons. "[Recycling] is something there is a growing interest in and more developers are building around this theme," reports Bell.

This growth in interest can be accredited to an increased awareness of the benefits that recycling can bring construction firms: from cost savings to green credentials. "Recycling of construction waste in the UAE is essential and can be of substantial value if initiated in a practical manner," stresses Ibrahim.

"The advantages of recycling construction and demolition (c&d) waste can help in the recovery of useful materials including steel, paper, plastics and other construction materials that can be useful in many other ways," Ibrahim explains.

Future event

The Middle East Waste Summit 2010 is scheduled to take place in Dubai Airport Expo Centre on 18-20 May 2010. Organised by Dubai Municipality, the summit will be a platform for sharing strategies, investigating global best practice and showcasing firms that can deliver suitable waste management solutions to the region.

The event will include a conference and exhibition. The conference is expected to have a wide programme of keynote sessions and roundtable discussions hosted by industry experts. Conference themes include construction and waste management, landfills, industrial waste management and zero waste inaccuracies and realities.

"[Incentives to construction firms include] the benefits they can achieve by reducing waste generation, followed by being able to reuse some of the waste material and the monetary gains that could be achieved via selling the waste as raw material to another party," states Mario Seneviratne, director, Green Technologies.

"Further, the costs associated with purchasing new materials is also reduced when reusable materials are salvaged from the waste generated," stresses Seneviratne.

But as well as the potential benefits to themselves, construction firms should also be considering the advantages that such practices will bring to the countries in which they are operating. "It's their responsibility to handle waste responsibly," stresses Kumar. "With recent concepts and regulations on sustainable buildings, recycling helps firms to get certified, which in turn benefits them financially," he adds.

"The main incentive of recycling site waste is to bring about an effective waste management system which has a positive impact on the environment by saving its natural resources," states Al Marashi. "[Recycling] will in turn reduce demand for virgin resources and the need for landfill space...thus increasing the lifespan of landfills in our country. This is the basic responsibility of all construction companies towards the environment," she stresses.

The issue of landfill sites is becoming rising in the agenda as the region develops and grows. "With the cities in the UAE expanding there is always a scrutiny of the landfill sites that occupy vast areas," agrees Ibrahim. "Construction and demolition (c&d) waste is generally bulky and requires vast areas for disposal," he reminds.

"The 2005 State of the Environment Report estimated that up to 940 tonnes of construction waste was being dropped each day at Abu Dhabi ‘s largest disposal site at Al Dhafra, which covers 16 square kilometers," reports Mike Merriman, Envac Middle East director marketing & sales. "Another site in Moqatra, Al Gharbia, received 5,000 tonnes a day. Both amounts will increase significantly as Abu Dhabi continues to develop," stresses Merriman.

In order to prove useful, any waste should be separated according to the type of items and given for recycling accordingly. "Separation or segregation of recyclables at source is very essential because it brings down waste handling costs to a large extent," explains Al Marashi.

Waste facilities

As the emphasis on waste management increases, so too do the facilities available to construction firms. "There is now a number of recycling factories in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Fujairah Free Zone," reports Al Marashi.

In 2008-09, two major projects were undertaken by the Abu Dhabi government aimed at construction waste and old vehicle tyres, with the latter being recycled for use in the construction sector.

Merriman explains: "The Abu Dhabi Government funded two projects: firstly, approximately AED1.1 billion (US $300 million) has been awarded to build and operate a demolition (construction waste) recycling facility in Abu Dhabi; second, funds have also been awarded to modernise and operate a recycling plant in Al Ain that is already capable of processing 20,000 tonnes of old tyres a year."

Once operational these facilities will divert large amounts of waste from landfills and disposal sites that have filled under the strain of a rapidly growing population and construction boom.

"Literally millions of tyres are dumped throughout the Emirates and this in its self creates a major environmental hazard," stresses Merriman. "Discarded tyres are highly flammable and if they catch fire, given that the conditions at dump sites lend this to be easily done, once ignited they are very difficult to extinguish. When the Al Ain facility is finished, the recovered rubber will be used to make a range of products including irrigation pipes, insulation and flooring solutions, and heat-resistant plastics for traffic signs," reports Merriman.

Recycled materials from the new construction waste recycling plant is expected to include aggregate stone and sand, which be reused to pave roads and make new or recycled bricks for use within the construction industry. "The plant will be similar to an already operational facility in Sharjah that handle 9000 tonnes of construction waste per shift," explains Merriman.

Waste management firms


Dulsco's Waste Management Services (WMS) was the first waste management firm in the UAE to be integrated management system (IMS) certified. The company collects and disposes of hazardous and no-hazardous solid waste, including construction and demolition waste, to landfill and treatment facilities in compliance with the Municipality's Environment and Safety regulations.


Envac is a global leader in automated waste collection. The firm develops and sells underground network systems for the transportation of municipal and commercial waste, which comprise fully automated, safe and environmentally friendly solutions. Based on vacuum technology, the Envac waste collection system supports source separation. The firm's system is adapted to meet local standards in more than 30 countries and it takes full responsibility from the planning phase to installation, including the system operation and maintenance, plus training of operators in the use of the system and how to separate waste according to national standards and regulations.

Globally Envac has 34 offices in 17 countries; in the UAE there are several operational systems both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with another six systems under construction. The same situation applies in both Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed Tayyeb Khoory & Sons was established in 1972 with a product portfolio aimed at the water, electricity, roads, transport and construction sectors. The firm now offers a wide range of electromechanical, construction and waste management equipment and solutions to firms in the Middle East.


Waste collecting firm Trashco began operating in the UAE in 1977 and currently operates around 60 vehicles from its base in Dubai for the collection of domestic, commercial and hazardous waste. The firm also offers recycling and industrial cleaning services. It is incorporated by Waste Alliance and the global energy, water and waste management group Suez Environment and holds several certifications including ISO 9001.

Dubai and Sharjah also have relatively new facilities for the disposal of c&d waste. "There was a launch of a recycling plant for c&d waste by Al Rostamani and Dubai Municipality in 2007," reports Ibrahim. "Sharjah has a plant for recycling construction waste; the AED40 million (US $11 million) Saja'a waste management factory is developed and run by Emirates Environmental Technology Company under supervision of Bee'ah, a limited liability joint stock company, partly owned by Sharjah Municipality," adds Ibrahim.
Sustainable building

The surge in investment for sustainable and ‘green' buildings has meant a greater focus on waste management on construction sites in recent months. Many clients now request that their projects meet the requirements of ratings systems such as the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

"Sustainable buildings, if constructed in its true essence, should use a significant percentage of the construction material from recycled materials,"  stresses Ibrahim. "There are likely to be regulations in the construction sites of these proposed green buildings," he adds.

Local governments are also applying minimum standards that follow the same guidelines, with more stringent regulations expected to be announced in the coming years. "Essa Al Maidoor, assistant director-general of Engineering and Planning Sector, Dubai Municipality revealed recently that the law on green building will be announced early [2010]," reminds Al Marashi. "This law will contribute greatly to addressing the environmental challenges of the Emirate by reducing building impacts on human health and the environment."

Such changes in regulation are already having an impact on construction work in the region and creating new opportunities for firms in the wider market.  "Due to the Government's direction of all projects requiring to be built to recognised green building standards it has been necessitated that the opportunities for recycling waste and reducing waste generation on the whole has opened up," confirms Seneviratne.

"With more and more projects pursuing green building certification under various rating systems, especially LEED, the waste management industry is also growing and the growth has been quite conspicuous in recent times," he adds.

"The rulers are pushing the issue [of green building] and this seems to have a big impact and cuts through red tape you would get in other societies," states Bell. "The larger, more professional developers are looking at this issue seriously," Bell confirms.

A number of points can be gained in the LEED system by managing waste on a project and using recycled materials (see box ‘LEED requirements'). These should be considered early in the construction process if full benefits are to be achieved. "Projects can achieve these LEED points by considering and incorporating the LEED requirements at the very initial stages of the project's design and by ensuring that the design, construction and operations strategies are implemented," explains Seneviratne.

With waste management and recycling included in green building ratings systems like LEED, it seems certain that the practice will be increased in the region. "With the requirement of sustainable buildings and LEED certification, companies will be forced to look into recycling," predicts Kumar. "It will become mandatory for builders to recycle and reuse waste materials to get certified and to maintain it," he concludes.

LEED requirements

The requirements as per the US Green Building Council's LEED rating system. LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations V 2009 with regards to managing waste on site are as follows, reports Mario Seneviratne:

• MRp1: Storage and collection of recyclables - required to be complied with;

• MRc1.1: Building reuse - maintain existing walls, floors and roof - one to three points to be gained if complied with;

• MRc1.2: Building reuse - maintain interior non-structural elements - one point to be gained if complied with;

• MRc2: Construction waste management - one to two points to be gained if complied with;

• MRc3: Materials reuse - one to two points to be gained if complied with;

• MRc4: Recycled content - one to two points to be gained if complied with;

• MRc6: Rapidly renewable materials - one point to be gained if complied with.

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